Five Years of Progress for Delivery Robotics
Learning from the industry's ups and downs
Few industries are as quick moving as food robotics and restaurant automation; new trends come and go in the blink of an eye, and novel startups seem to emerge constantly, each offering an intriguing new approach to solving vexing problems. In the past five years, the field delivery robotics and PDDs has seen a particularly abundant amount of change, as the pandemic supercharged the need for low contact delivery, followed by a push to solve chronic delivery fleet labor shortages.
Let’s look back at the state of delivery robotics since 2020, to see how the field’s evolved.
2020: Rolling Out
At Curbivore 2020, delivery robots were still quite unfamiliar essentially anywhere other than George Mason University or the back roads of Estonia. So Refraction AI Co-Founder Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Tortoise Co-Founder Dmitry Shevelenko were navigating uncharted terrain as they got their companies running through the heart of the pandemic, providing an invaluable lifeline to restaurants that couldn’t otherwise operate. Tortoise pivoted to mobile vending robots before quietly winding down; Refraction’s three-wheeler is still chugging along with a valuable Chick-fil-A contract.
2021-22: Mo’ Money, No Problems
2021 and early 2022 was truly a go-go time for the space, as billions of dollars were poured into hardware-heavy firms, and quick delivery upstarts like JOKR were all racing to figure out how to deliver small orders at ever quicker speeds. At Curbivore 2021, Coco’s Carl Hansen was on hand to discuss how robots were a particularly good fit for new delivery verticals, Dan Mitchell made the case for unique form factors like Nuro’s, and Tortoise’s Dmitry Shevelenko announced the company’s aforementioned pivot to Mobile Smart Stores.
2023: Creativity Counts
With budgets tighter, last year restaurateurs got creative with their automated solutions. Sweetfin shared the innovative ways it made use of Coco, Sprinkles’ Founder Candace Nelson shared the creation of her iconic Cupcake ATM, and Benson Tsai opened up about building his truck-based robotic Stellar pizzeria.
2024: Robotic Rebound?
With Curbivore 2024 just two months away, only time will tell what will happen next. With the sector back on the upswing, we’re expecting a major announcement or two to keep the industry animated!